Chilbeck John


by Ada Whitney Chilbeck Dorsett

On April 8,1908, Dad and Mom Chilbeck, Harold and I left for Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, from Minnesota. We were met by brother Art, who that previous summer had been working on government survey around Athabasca.

That fall of 1908 Dad went about two hundred miles east and filed on his homestead. In February, 1909, Art and his friend, Billy McCormick, bought a team of oxen and a sleigh and travelled down the Saskatchewan River. The oxen were shod but it was often 40 - 50 below zero. It took about thirteen days for the trip. One of the oxen suffered a frozen foot. Upon arrival they built a log wall for a storey-and-a-half house on Dad's homestead. They did the same on the McCormick homestead. These walls were used for shelter until more walls and a roof could be added to make a house.

In June, 1909, when the high water on the river made traversing the rapids much easier, Dad and Art built a barge on the bank of the Saskatchewan River in Edmonton. This enabled them to transport the furniture from Mother's household in Minnesota, as well as the wagon and plow, at a much more rapid pace. They now travelled seventy miles each day. On the final day they covered sixty miles. They tied up at the bank which was a corner of Dad's homestead that extended into the river. Later, the wall they had originally built was roofed and floored with the lumber they had used to build the barge. Now the 25 x 30 foot building was their first home in Alberta. Prior to the completion of the building, a tent had been their home. As the mosquitoes came in swarms, Dad had built a smudge fire and accidentally the flap of the tent caught fire. Dad burned a foot and his hands quite badly while putting out the fire.

I had been teaching school in Content. When the term ended in July, Dad met me at Vermilion. It was a long trip with an overnight stop. I so vividly remember the Sand Plains about five miles from Dad's home. They were almost red with wild tiger lilies -- it was a gorgeous sight.


Mr. and Mrs. John Chilbeck just before they left Edmonton for the homestead in 1909.

At the time I arrived in Canada there were very few settlers. I remember a retired bachelor named Bob Chanler, who was an ex-mounted policeman, and the Maxwell family, who had arrived earlier. That fall, as we were in the pines picking blueberries and cranberries, we were surprised to look up and see two more families coming through driving their stock. They were the Hatchards with five children, and the Frisbys with a boy and a girl. They settled about three miles north of us.

We celebrated the first Christmas, and many more, by inviting most all the neighbors to partake in the festivities at Dad and Mother Chilbeck's. We had a grand time dancing to the old phonograph with the cylinder records and the big horn. Dad kept the music going and we danced until day-light.

In February, sister Edna came for a visit and Dad took Cecil-Ann and Luella Maxwell, Edna and myself to Vermilion to meet brother Art who was returning to marry Cecil-Anne, whom he had fallen in love with at the time he was building the log houses. It was a very cold trip as the thermometer had dropped to 45below zero. We finally arrived at the only place on the trip that had a stop-over. The accommodations weren't exactly adequate as the four of us girls had to sleep in one bed. -- However, crowded as we were, at least we were warm and out of the cold.

On April 12,1910, I was married to Archie Pasmore. As there were no ministers in our area, Archie had to bring one out the fifty-five miles from Vermilion. A few days later we left for Content, where Archie had a job running the government dredge.

That summer my dad had an unfortunate accident which he lost his right arm. He had reached into a load of hay to remove a shot gun. Unbeknown to him, it had been entangled with the hay, which caused it to fire. This so damaged his right arm that brother Art, who was working a government building in Ponoka, had to go to Edmonton to get a doctor. He and the doctor rode the train as far as Vermilion, then hired a livery team to take them the rest of the way. After three days of anxiety, suffering and waiting, family rejoiced at seeing the two of them arrive. After doctor had completed his examination, it fell upon Art to give Dad the sad news that his arm would have to be amputated four inches from the shoulder. This took some convincing but Art had persuasive ways. So Dad's arm was operated upon, with Art assisting the doctor. Dad was in bed very weak from loss of blood when they came, but they left two days later, he was sitting up by the stove. Dad was such a good Christian and had such faith that he said whatever happened would be all right.

The Government Telegraph Office put in about the time of the Riel Rebellion was located in two or three log houses. It was operated by John McCartney. His mother, father one sister and brother came to live with him about l909. About the same time the government opened a post office by the name of Tyrol. It was operated by the Maxwells. A school house was also built in that neighborhood. Dad freighted lumber from Vermilion. About the same time the government built a house of lumber for the telegraph office. Soon after that, the McCartney family moved away and Arthur Bowtell came with his new wife to operate the telegraph office, called Moose Creek. At a later date, when two bachelors, Mr. Hogan and Mr. Mayben, built a store near the telegraph office, the post office, now named Mooswa, was moved to store.

Archie and I came back to his homestead in March, 1911 when Donald, our first boy, was three weeks old. In September, my sister, Mrs. Walter Soper and four children came from Minnesota and filed on a quarter of land which joined the Pasmore quarter. Later, my oldest sister, Mrs. Edv Clysdale, arrived with her husband and daughter. They built a small store, which was later sold to Mr. Logan and Mr. Mayben.

The next family to arrive was Hugh Cinnamon and his boys. Then Barney Edwards -- an auctioneer and cattle buyer-- came with his sister, Mrs. Jackson, and his seven children. His sister Icy worked as secretary to a lawyer in St. Paul de Metis, which was thirty-three miles from Mooswa. Later they were married. He was elected member of parliament Ottawa. Less then a year later he returned to St. Paul Metis on vacation. His car ran into a team and wagon during a heavy downpour and he was killed.

Mr. Cameron wrote several books. In one he tells of start of the Riel Rebellion, and how his life was saved by an Indian woman. She hid Mr. Cameron behind her full skirt as she sat on a log. He was the only white person saved. During the thirties the government placed a bronze marker at the of the rebellion. We could see the impression in the sod of crescent and stars where their flower beds had been made years before. I also saw where the tunnel had been built down to the bottom of a deep draw where they had kept their horses, hoping to escape in case of a raid by the Indians. After the tunnel had fallen in, it left a deep path down the hill from where their mission had been.

During the second summer, Dad and Mother made a long, hard trip by Hopkins ferry to Vermilion and thence by train to Edmonton with their youngest son, Harold, who was ill. Doctors told my parents a vein in his stomach was too small and had ruptured. In January, 1913, Harold had another attack and lived three days. Neighbors built a casket and Dad Chilbeck, himself, with his wonderful Christian faith, gave the service. He had been deacon of the Baptist Church in Minnesota for almost thirty years before moving to Canada. Harold was buried in the top corner of Dad's homestead. Dad saw the need for a cemetery in that district, so he had me write to the Government of Alberta at Edmonton requesting permission to set up a cemetery on our property, with Dad offering to give an acre of his land for this purpose. The government accepted his proposal and, in order to make it a legal document, paid Dad $1.00 for his acre of land. Many souls were buried there and the neighbors met often at Pasmores, who now owned Dad's place, to work in the cemetery to keep it trimmed and beautified. Barney Edwards family have several graves there. Their daughter Pearl died at age five and their daughter Lucille was sixteen when she died suddenly. A neighbor built the casket and, with the help of two other neighbors, we covered and lined it. I also made her last dress. I felt so sad and lonely the night the casket was left at our house as I was alone with my three young children.

We had many sad experiences but also many happy times, as the whole neighborhood was like one big family in sad or happy times.

I remember one dance in the log house during the winter of 1926, when at least fifty people came to our house. It was 60 below zero. Many had come with horses and sleigh fifteen to twenty miles. By noon the very next day a Chinook wind passed over our area and the temperature rose to 45 degreesabove zero -- a change of over one hundred degrees within a period of twenty-four hours.

The school was usually open only from March to late fall. During winter, it was too cold and the roads too deep with snow. Mrs. Cinnamon was one of the teachers about 1928. Another was a dental student, who was very good. Another teacher, Miss Lewis, did a fine job. She later married the grain elevator operator at Elk Point. My daughter, Mildred Pasmore completed grade school under her tutoring. After the final exams had been written and sent to Edmonton for grading, Mildred was greatly surprised at receiving a velvet case with Lord and Lady Wellington on a beautiful bronze medal for having received the highest marks in that Inspectorate.

Elk Point, which was twelve miles from our place, had a hospital and two good doctors, Miller and Ross. Dr. Miller was the doctor for the Indian Reservation near Frog Lake, which was about thirteen miles east of us. Many times, when the roads were bad or deep with snow, Dr. Miller would stop at our house for dinner at noon and change to our team to continue his trip. He was a real country or pioneer doctor for he often stayed night and day with a case. Then, tired and exhausted, he could be seen covered with a fur robe and sound asleep in his cutter with the horses taking him home.

One night when it was 45below zero, Dr. Ross was travelling by car on the river on one of his long trips, when he slipped off the built-up icy-ridged tracks they were using. He tried in vain to get his car on the road. He even put his good fur coat under the wheels to get traction onto the road again. But to no avail. He finally gave up and walked up the river hill to our house. My youngest son, Bud, took the team down to help him get out.

The ferry at Mooswa was put in about 1912. Before that we had to go up the river to Hopkins ferry about twenty miles. Later, a ferry was sent down the river for Elk Point from where it was built in Edmonton. As there were no barges to assist in guiding the ferry, it couldn't be stopped. It just drifted on past and was used at a point farther down the river. Dad saw it pass. For several years he operated the Mooswa ferry.

At some time during each winter it would drop to 60 below zero. I have seen snow fall every month except July and August. During the cold spells, one could hear the scratch of the runners of the sleighs four miles away. One morning I heard my brother Bill singing. I thought he was very close but found out he was three miles down the river on Dad's place, driving the stock to the river to drink from the hole chopped in the ice. I heard a neighbor, Mr. Taylor, over half a mile away, sawing wood at his place, and telling his daughter Lilly to get in the house out of the cold. It sounded as though he was just behind our house. Our place was on top of the river hill, so perhaps that helped carry the sound so well. Friends from Washington state visiting me these later years have said they thought the temperatures over the years were getting warmer.

Barney Edwards' family moved to Edmonton earlier. When Edna, his wife, was sick she wanted to come back to Elk Point to Dr. Miller. She died in 1937. The four younger children stayed with us during her sickness and for a short time after the funeral They just seemed to be part of the family as we had been together so many times over the years.


Mr. and Mrs. John Chilbeck with their children - Mary, Arthur, Ada, Edna, Ed, Grace, Harold, and William, about 1897.

When the ice on the Saskatchewan River broke each spring, it would be shoved up along the banks. Each spring we would put several loads of block ice, packed in sawdust, into our ice house, so we would have it for making delicious ice cream or iced tea all summer long.

The neighbors from as far as Elk Point met most Sundays in summer for ball games and swims in Lake Whitney. Often a hockey game was held on the ice but it was quite a chore to keep the drifting snow off. Sometimes the river would freeze, then thaw and break up enough to make a real rough surface.

One time, after the hospital was in Elk Point, Vince Stanley was trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital in time. Unfortunately, his car broke down on the rough ice on the river. The telegraph office was closed so he came up the river hill to have me call the doctor at Elk Point, as our phone was connected to the one at the hospital. Then we brought his wife to the house. We were just able to get her into bed before a baby boy was born.

We bought the large, three-bedroom frame house when the telegraph station was taken out. With the help of neighbors and ten teams of horses, it was hauled up the hill, where it was put on a foundation and painted. It stood a few feet from the original log house. It is now thirty-six years ago that my youngest son, Bud, and I left to come to Western United States, to be near my older brothers and sisters. My niece was back three years ago and saw the graveyard and old home. The log building had buried down just two weeks before she visited but the frame house was still there.

One very beautiful sight I remember so well were the spectacular northern lights. At times I have seen them covering over half of the sky -- flickering and flashing in many vivid colors.

After the telegraph office was closed and the telephone was installed at our house, some of the young people connected the telephone hook-up to the barbed wire fences and erected posts over the many gates to carry the wires. Many neighbors used this as a means of communication. My son, Bud, and I often talked to our friends fourteen miles or more away.

We had the post office for several years. At first the Russian names of the settlers south of the Saskatchewan River seemed hard to pronounce. They were a friendly group of people. I remember one time when we were invited to a wedding, custom, was to last three days; but, although we had a very good time, one day of celebrating was enoughfor us so we left the others to enjoy their merriment.

The first threshing of grain that I can recall was done by an ox going round on a big sweep.

We had a nurse, known to everyone as Aunty Miller, who came in about 19l8 and was with me when Bud was born in 1920. She was such a wonderful woman and so helpful to everyone our community. Our nearest doctor was at St. Paul de Metis which was thirty-five miles away.

One occasion that stands out in my memory of the strange happenings in our pioneer days was the time three caskets were ordered from Edmonton -- two of which were for funerals at Elk Point and one for a man in our neighborhood. The young man in charge of the funeral found, upon opening the casket, many beautiful floral arrangements in it. He was very surprised but, thinking they were meant for the funeral at which he was officiating, he carefully placed them around the casket. Moments later, someone from Elk Point hurried in, saying there had been a mistake -- the flowers were meant for the Elk Point funerals. "Too bad", said the young fellow officiating, "You will just have to wait as we are now holding the service and the flowers have been placed. You can have them after the service." As most of the neighbours had found this deceased man hard to deal with, it was said that he once again came out ahead by having such grand funeral and flowers which had been meant for another.

Even with all the trials and hardship around Tyrol, Mooswa or Lindbergh, Dad said it was the Garden of Eden and Mother loved it there too. There was such an abundance wild berries. Black currants were found on the banks Moose Creek. We had the largest raspberries I have ever see as well as blueberries and lingonberries -- the latter we usually called cranberries, but Dad said that kind were found mostly in Sweden. Brother Art said he had found them in Alaska, too, where he had spent many summers building government schools and hospitals. The elk and deer often fed on the green fields of grain and alfalfa and were the choicest of meat. Most every winter someone would arrive with sleigh load of frozen white fish from Cold Lake, which sold for 8 cents a pound.

In 1919 Dad was not expected to live. Telegrams were sent to sister Edna Clysdale in Minnesota, and to me at Trail but before we arrived by train to Islay, Dad had died. Barn Edwards and brother Art met Edna's train from the east as my train from the west two hours later. Barney took me and my two children, Donald and Mildred, directly home the forty-five miles. I remember that on the trip there was a fire in the woods and he had to shove burning trees off the road before we could pass. Art and Edna went to Vermilion where they bought the casket for Dad and loaded it on the back of his Ford touring car. Mother died one year later, in April also.

Brother Art moved to Washington State. Soon most of his sisters and his brother Bill moved there, too. Grace, M Walter Soper, and children left Alberta about 1921 to move to Minnesota. They moved to the West Coast where Bud and I joined them in 1940. Sister Edna came about 1945, with her daughter Helen, now Mrs. Clarence Schwartz, and her young daughter, Scharlyn.

I had hoped this would be more of a history of early days of pioneering in Alberta on the farthest north bend of the North Saskatchewan River. But, as I am the only child left of Dad Chilbeck's family, it seems to have a lot about my life and thoughts. My oldest son, Donald, is living in Vancouver, B.C. He was in World War H and stationed in Germany. My daughter, Mildred, married Jack Taylor from England and they moved to England about 1944. My youngest son, Bud, moved with me to Vancouver, Washington. He volunteered his services in the Navy Sea Bees in the South Pacific in World War II. It isn't likely that many of the old neighbors at Tyrol-Mooswa-Lindbergh can still be living there now. When I was visiting Vancouver, B.C., and Powell River at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I found twenty-seven of them in Powell River and thirty-eight in Vancouver, B.C. I have also attended several of the Lindbergh reunions which have been held in Vancouver, B.C., every year and I enjoyed seeing and talking to so many people from that area.


The Archie Pasmore family, LEFT TO RIGHT: Archie, Bud, Ada, Mildred, Donald, 1930.

I met Charles Dorsett in Vancouver, Washington, and married him in 1953. We had a most happy life together until he died in 1974. I was eighty-five years old August 25, 1976, and am enjoying excellent health